Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Fit saw it fit to approve AB tender anyway

The former Minister of Transport and Communications, Tshenolo Mabeo, has admitted that it was improper to make decisions at ministry level that were not approved by the Air Botswana Board of Directors.

Appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies, Mabeo said it was unfortunate and regrettable that Permanent Secretary Neil Fit approved the Air Botswana tender when the national airliner did not have a board of directors.

The over P81 million ($7million) tender of provision of aircraft engine maintenance services was authorised by the ministry’s top officials when the entire parastatal’s board of directors had just been fired.

Another wrong issue of governance that Mabeo admitted was that the right procedure was not followed in the recent trip to Brazil, Canada and France. Both Fit and Mabeo said the purpose of the trip to the aircraft manufactures was to familiarise themselves to make informed decisions.

“I was aware that the trip could raise eyebrows. We took along the Air Botswana engineer so that he could assist us in asking the relevant questions for informed decisions,” said Mabeo.

Mabeo also revealed that he learned about Fit authorising the Air Botswana from the Acting General Manager, Agnes Khunwana.

The committee led by MP Guma Moyo learnt that shortly after Mabeo dissolved the Air Botswana Board of Directors, Fit approved a request to enter into a three-year contract with Pratt and Whitney Canada without floating an invitation for tender.

“I must say that it is painful for me to appear before this committee and I was kept in the dark,” said Mabeo.

The committee also was of the view that it was a deliberate decision to remove the Air Botswana Board of Directors to pave way for such decisions which were against the Air Botswana Act.

Both Mabeo and Fit admitted that it took them some time to appoint the Air Botswana board as they were still searching for the right talent. Mabeo added that the Christmas break also contributed to the prolonged delay of getting the board in place as well as confirming the names of the recommended people.

“There were few decisions that we made and no decision needed 100 percent board approval. The rest of the requests from Air Botswana were for guidance,” said Fit.

Fit is of the view that authorising the Air Botswana P81 million tender at operational level was the right thing to do for the benefit of the airliner to run the business.

Moyo said Fit misled the minister as well as allowing unauthorised expenditure, adding that if he (Moyo), was the minister, he would fire the PS.

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